Puffer Fish Sashimi Fugu, Japan

The Japanese delicacy fugu, or blowfish, is so poisonous that the smallest mistake in its preparation could be fatal. The tetrodotoxin found in fugu is more toxic than cyanide, and each year about 20 people are poisoned from badly prepared fish. It takes a lot of skill and training to prepare the fish safely and know which parts are poisonous. 

The Japanese government tightly control who can prepare fugu, and chefs need to take an extensive exam before they’re legally allowed to serve the fish. This rigorous regulation means that while the fish can be lethal, far more people die from eating oysters than fugu each year. 

All of the skill and training that goes into preparing this fish increases the price. The fish is killed seconds before preparation. And while the process looks gruesome as the muscles continue to spasm, the fish is dead. 

Fugu has a very mild whitefish-like flavor with a pure and clean quality to it. Its taste is subtle which is fairly unique for seafood, and is part of why the dish is sought after. Its texture will vary significantly depending on how it is cooked.

Osaka Tempozan Anipa, Japan

Tempozan Anipa is an animal cafe where you get to pet lots of animals. There are many animals in this small place, alpacas, capybaras, kangaroos, tortoises, dogs, cats, birds and many small animals. It was our first time seeing capybaras and getting to touch them. The kangaroos were slightly scary but they weren’t the adult size. The alpaca was super cute.

Kyoto Kimono Experience, Japan

When it’s the summer we can not only rent a kimono, but we can also rent a yukata (an informal and light cotton kimono) as well. It goes without saying, but a yukata is perfect when viewing a fireworks festival, viewing the Gion Festival, watching the ceremonial fires of the large Japanese kanji characters on the mountains in Kyoto, and a number of other summer festivals. But it’s not just festivals, when visiting somewhere specializing in sweet foods and eating a matcha (powdered green tea) based parfait or shaved ice, wearing a kimono is part of the fun of doing so in Kyoto.

Nara Park, Japan

According to Shinto tradition and lore, Nara deer were the sacred messengers of the gods, such that, in ancient times, killing a deer in Nara was a crime punishable by death. These days the deer are no longer considered sacred, but to honor tradition they’re considered national treasures, which is why we can see them roaming in Nara Park. In fact, that’s why the park is sometimes called Nara deer park or Japan’s deer forest; it’s easily the area’s most defining feature. Today, there are over 1,200 deer in Nara Park, which is located in Nara, in Japan’s Kansai region. These deer are called sika, which is derived from the Japanese word for deer: shika

Mount Fuji aka Fujisan, Japan

Mount Fuji is 3,776 meters high and the tallest mountain in Japan. It has been an object of faith and worship since ancient times for the Japanese people and has inspired countless paintings and poems – in short, it is dear to an entire nation. With this background, it has been registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 2013. Mount Fuji isn’t always visible from Tokyo and even if you stay for a week, weather and season might have it hide behind clouds the entire time. But for us, seeing Japan’s most famous mountain is at the top of our bucket list. 

Cherry Blossoms aka Sakura, Japan

In Japan, the appearance of cherry blossoms, known as sakura, signals the beginning of spring. The arrival of these flowers is an annual event so significant, that there are forecasts pinpointing exactly when and where the flowers are expected to bloom. From an outsider’s perspective, this may seem excessive. However, when taking into account the fact that sakura are only in bloom for a maximum of about two weeks, it’s understandable that people would want to find out both the ‘kaika’ (blooming) and ‘mankai’ (full bloom) predictions in order to make the most out of the ‘hanami’ (flower viewing) season.